Thursday, July 31, 2008

Transforming Schools Through Production Design?

I'm not sure how to describe it so I often say "The goal is to make schools look more like children's museums." The idea is that the school buildings themselves should be more attractive and enticing spaces that contribute to the learning process rather than be just warehouses for students, teaching factories, or learn-release youth prisons.

Architects make big money designing schools and give out awards for top school designs but they are mainly interested in attractive, functional buildings with sufficient floor space, lighting and HVAC. Interior designers can do some things with the halls and rooms but they are mainly concerned with sink placement, cabinetry, window treatments and color schemes.

I have been searching for designers who can provide inspiration and advice on taking the curriculum of the school and making it visible and tangible in the schools - to make the school (like good interactive museums) part of the teaching and learning strategy. Now I think I may have found them - production designers. While they focus on designing spaces for entertainment, I think we can translate their knowledge and skills to transform environments for learning.

Production designers create immersive environments for movies, TV, theme parks, video games and anywhere else the environment is designed to be part of the experience. They have a conference coming up in October in Long Beach, CA where people from diverse groups like Dreamworks animation, Industrial Light and Magic, Imaginary Forces, and Electronic Arts video game designers are coming together to exchange ideas about creating immersive environments. The keynote speaker is Henry Jenkins (above left), one of the world's leading authorities on media and game design.

That's getting pretty close to what I have in mind - schools that are immersive learning environments. I will join them in Long Beach, CA this October for this groundbreaking two day conference that claims it will open my eyes to the impact of technology in the design of entertainment experiences (I read educational experiences) across film, television, videogames, animation and environmental design. Leading practitioners of immersive design will conduct a series of in-depth panels over the two days inspiring artists, designers, scholars, educators and students – just about anyone involved in the creation of entertainment (and education).

Stay tuned to see what we can learn from production designers about transforming schools for the 21st century. Check out their conference called 5D - The Future of Immersive Design that will take place at the Carpenter Performing Arts Center at CSU, Long Beach on October 4-5, 2008. (There are big discounts for educators.)

Click on the heading above to see details about the conference.

Thinking in 3 Dimensions

Thinking in 3D is the basis for all environmental design. Frank Lloyd Wright played with Froebel Blocks as a child and later said they are "in his fingers still". Playing with blocks, making models, Lincoln Logs, Erector Sets, Kinex, or any other construction type activity should be part of every person's ongoing dexterity learning. Even dentists and surgeons benefit from ongoing practice in 3D manipulation.

Here is a quick project for any age student using a pencil, a piece of plain paper, some clear tape and a pair of scissors. Cut a two inch square corner from a piece of tagboard for each student to use to establish scale. The square represents the heighth and width of a one story building. Students can make two-story buildings, wider or longer buildings, and make different shaped roofs or angles to their buildings using the square as their template. They can attach extra paper as necessary.

In a short period of time students can create a variety of building shapes by cutting and taping little buildings together. To focus on the structural 3D aspects of the lessons, don't do any drawing or decorating of the buildings. Leave them plain white and make any additions (doors, windows, chimneys, etc.) by attaching white shapes to the main building. It is the 3D form that is important at this point, not any decorative details.

Some hints - do any drawing or planning on the side that will be inside the structure and not be seen in the end. Use clear tape or glue so that the structure isn't marred by visible masking tape or other joining devices that might distract.

The point is to learn to think with your hands as preparation to be an environment designer (architecture, urban planning, interior design, parks, playgrounds, stage sets, movie lots, etc.) or an industrial designer (packages, products, etc.).

Click on the heading above to go to the website of the Association of Professional Model Makers.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Visualization Methods

Visualization is often associated with science, computer science, data, and mathematics rather than art and design. It is deemed as too "scientific" for some art and design teachers.

Called by a variety of names - visualization, visual science, visual literacy, visual communication, etc. - the use of charts, maps, diagrams, graphs, etc. to learn, process, understand and communicate complex information should be seen as a basic part of any K-12 art and design education program. Art and Design teachers should consider their domain to be the entirety of the visual world (fine art, design, visual culture, and visual communication) wherever visuals appear - as a torus in mathematics, a map in social studies, an illustration in literature, or a scientific diagram.

Edward Tufte is one of the gurus of visual explanations and there are many companies, websites, and books that provide visualization products and training for businesses. Visualization is big business. There is no shortage of information about visual information. It is one area that can be, and is, used across disciplines by people around the world.

Click on the heading above to see an interactive version of the Periodic Table of Visualization Methods. Scroll across the page to see examples of each type of visualization. The "elements" are grouped into visualization of data, information, concepts, strategies, metaphors, and any combinations of them.

21st Century Skills?

Can you spot the role of design education and design thinking in the work of the Partnership for 21st Century Skills (P21)?

There is a list of core subject areas that is quite inclusive - even including the arts - but the place to look for design is in the basic skills. Too often, the Partnership (P21) still emphasizes reading, writing and mathematics as the core basic skills. Greater attention needs to be paid to the primary importance of basic skills such as looking and making. In the Framework developed by P21 the processes for designing anything (Design Processes) and the methods (Design Thinking) are presented, in slightly different form, as 21st Century Skills.

Among the Learning and Innovation Skills are Creativity and Innovation Skills; Critical Thinking and Problem Solving Skills; and Communication and Collaboration Skills.
Among the Information, Media and Technology Skills are Information Literacy; Media Literacy; and Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Literacy
A separate category lists Life and Career Skills such as Flexibility & Adaptability; Initiative & Self-Direction; Social & Cross-Cultural Skills; Productivity & Accountability; Leadership & Responsibility.

These are a basic description of the use of images, objects, environments, and experiences that make up the design education curriculum and the design thinking processes used in design education classes. What most educators fail to fully internalize (even the top people in P21) is that people learn, think and communicate powerful ideas with objects and spaces as well as words and numbers. Recognition of media literacy is one way in which there is recognition of the power of images but there is much to be done in the areas of object learning (consult Neil Gershenfeld, Don Norman and Henry Petroski) and spatial learning (see the American Planning Association, American Institute of Architects, the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum's City of Neighborhoods and CUBE's Box City.) Think about the spatial items typically included on any IQ test - where are those in the 21st Century Skills?

Partners like Apple, Ford Motor Company Fund, Hewlett Packard, and LEGO group need to be more forthcoming in the acknolwedgement of how people who design objects are using different basic skills and are helping shape the 21st century through the power of design. New Partners must join to represent the design of environments and the importance of carefully designing spaces and places in the creation of a sustainable future for the planet and beyond. Where are the voices representing the importance of basic visual and spatial skills used in architecture, urban design, and sustainability design?

The Partnership for 21st Century Skills is the leading advocacy organization focused on infusing 21st century skills into education. The organization brings together the business community, education leaders, and policymakers to define a vision for 21st century education in an effort to ensure every child’s success as citizens and workers in the 21st century. The Partnership encourages schools, districts, and states to advocate for the infusion of 21st century skills into education and provides tools and resources to help facilitate and drive change. 21st Century Skills Leadership States include: Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, North Carolina, South Dakota, Wisconsin and West Virginia.

Member organizations include: Adobe Systems, Inc., American Association of School Librarians, Apple, ASCD, AT&T, Atomic Learning, Blackboard, Inc., Cable in the Classroom, Cengage Learning, Cisco Systems, Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Davis Publications, Dell, Inc., Discovery Education, Education Networks of America, Education Testing Service, EF Education, Ford Motor Company Fund, Giant Campus, Hewlett Packard, Intel Foundation, JA Worldwide, KnowledgeWorks Foundation, LEGO Group, Lenovo, Measured Progress, Microsoft Corporation, National Education Association, Oracle Education Foundation, Pearson, PolyVision, SAP, Sesame Workshop, Texas Instruments, THINKronize, Verizon, and Wireless Generation. Organizations interested in joining the Partnership may contact

Click on the heading above to go to the Partnership site.

7 Basic Skills

Probably the best-known theory of multiple intelligences was developed in 1983 by Dr. Howard Gardner, professor of education at Harvard University. Dr. Gardner proposed seven then later eight different intelligences to account for a broader range of human potential in children and adults. These intelligences are:

Linguistic intelligence (“word smart”)
Logical-mathematical intelligence (“number/reasoning smart”)
Spatial intelligence (“picture smart”)
Bodily-kinesthetic intelligence (“body smart”)
Musical intelligence (“music smart”)
Interpersonal intelligence (“people smart”)
Intrapersonal intelligence (“self smart”)
Naturalist intelligence (“nature smart”)

I suggest a similar but slightly different list for the following reasons:

1. Linguistic intelligence (“word smart”)
2. Logical-mathematical intelligence (“number/reasoning smart”)

Gardner's Spatial intelligence (“picture smart”) compresses 3 areas of visual intelligence into one category. This category should read:

3. Image intelligence ("picture smart")
4. Object intelligence ("thing smart" including tactile sensing)
5. Spatial intelligence ("space smart")

6. Bodily-kinesthetic intelligence (“body smart”)
7. Musical intelligence (“music smart”)

Gardner's 3 remaining areas of "intelligence", I suggest, should be part of a different list consisting of 7 things one should be intelligent about and constitute what could be called a "category error" where he mixes things we think with and things to think about.
Interpersonal intelligence (“people smart”)
Intrapersonal intelligence (“self smart”)
Naturalist intelligence (“nature smart”)
Rather than intelligences themselves these are things to be smart about - yourself, other people, and other living things. To complete that list one should add - the universe, the solar system and Earth, technology, and information.

This became clear when Gardner, after originally identifying 7 intelligences, later struggled with what to do with an 8th "Naturalist intelligence". I suggest that, at that point, he had started to co-mingle two related but distinct lists constituting a category error.

The compete list of 7 things to be smart about include:
1. The Universe (13.8 billion years)
2. Our solar system and Earth (4.5 billion years)
3. Life (3.8 million years)
4. Consciousness (150,000 years)
5. Civilization (10,000 years)
6. Technology (500 years)
7. Information (50 years)

Gardner's initial "Interpersonal" and "Intrapersonal" intelligences belong in this list and kick in at stages 4 and 5 as the first signs of human cognition appear about 150,000 years ago for consciousness and only 10,000 years ago for civilization. (Being a psychologist and neuroscientist it is understandable that he would create two categories for human consciousness while compressing 3 categories of visual-spatial intelligence into one).

His later attempt to add a natural intelligence fits into category 3 - life - and not in a list of intelligences.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Objectified - The Movie (coming soon)

Objectified is a feature-length independent documentary about industrial design. It’s a look at the creativity at work behind everything from toothbrushes to tech gadgets. It’s about the people who re-examine, re-evaluate and re-invent our manufactured environment on a daily basis. It’s about personal expression, identity, consumerism, and sustainability. It’s about our relationship to mass-produced objects and, by extension, the people who design them.

Through vérité footage and in-depth conversations, the film documents the creative processes of some of the world’s most influential designers, and looks at how the things they make impact our lives. What can we learn about who we are, and who we want to be, from the objects with which we surround ourselves?

Director Gary Hustwit also produced the feature length film "Helvetica" available on DVD.

Objectified is currently in production and will have its world premiere in early 2009. Click on the heading above to join their mailing list or subscribe to their RSS feed to stay informed of screening announcements.

The movie features
Paola Antonelli (Museum of Modern Art, New York)
Chris Bangle (BMW Group, Munich)
Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec (Paris)
Andrew Blauvelt (Walker Art Center, Minneapolis)
Anthony Dunne (London)
Naoto Fukasawa (Tokyo)
IDEO (Palo Alto) (Tim Brown is shown upper right)
Jonathan Ive (Apple, California)
Hella Jongerius (Rotterdam)
Marc Newson (London/Paris)
Fiona Raby (London)
Dieter Rams (Kronberg, Germany)
Karim Rashid (New York)
Alice Rawsthorn (International Herald Tribune)
Rob Walker (New York Times Magazine)
and more participants TBA

Monday, July 28, 2008

Imagineering and Childhood Dreams

It's fashionable in some circles to look down on the Walt Disney company and it's many entities (animated films, theme parks, toys, etc.) I've heard people even say Disneyland is too clean, as if being messy or dirty is a virtue.

The fact of the matter is that the Disney Imagineers have been and are some of the most creative people on the planet. If schools were designed and run by Imagineers they too could be among "the happiest places on Earth".

This doesn't mean that schools should be filled with Disney images. Drawing upon the spirit of Imagineering means that schools should develop their own stories and use well-designed images, objects, environments and experiences to enhance the quality of learning and the experience of going to school for everyone - including students, teachers, administrators, and parents. If Walt Disney had done a stint as Secretary of Education we might not be saddled with No Child Left Behind and schools that draw their inspiration from prisons. Instead, schools would be places of curiosity, open-mindedness, and optimism.

If teachers are going to spend their working lives in schools and students are going to spend 12 years of their lives in schools as well, why can't we make schools among the happiest places on Earth? By teaching students how to design and how design can transform the world, we can not only transform schooling and learning in the 21st century, but, when students graduate, they will continue to help design and create the safest, most optimistic, and most enchanting places on the planet for everyone to work, live, learn, and play.

It's an hour long but, if you click on the heading above, you can watch the inspiring "Last Lecture" by Randy Pausch (above right) (when he knew he only had months to live). He died in July, 2008. Randy's life was inspired by his childhood dream of being an Imagineer. I think Randy might have had the right idea.

Design and Architecture Senior High (DASH)

The Design and Architecture Senior High (DASH) in Miami is one of the top high schools of any type in the country. As a design high school it may be the top.

Design and Architecture Senior High School offers opportunities in academics and in professional design fields. The academic programs include college preparatory courses at the standard, honors, and advanced placement levels. Areas of design taught include architecture and interior design, industrial design, fashion design, visual communications, web design, entertainment technology, and a four year fine arts foundation program.

The principal, Stacy Mancuso, is known as someone who breaks the mold as both a principal and a teacher. “Very few principals are artists,” noted Ellen Abramson, who teaches AP art portfolio to DASH juniors and seniors. “She goes all out for her students and knows what it takes to make it. She gives us the resources we need to help them succeed.”

DASH’s classrooms are hives of creativity, where students are friendly, open and focused on designing and making art. There are posters of DASH graduates’ designs hanging everywhere. Many of those grads design the latest cars, electronics, sneakers and fashion.

One of the most famous DASH graduates is Duane Lawrence, who was hired by Converse to design a signature shoe for Dwyane Wade (right). The industrial design classroom is a shrine to former students’ real-world achievements; walls are decorated with posters of alumni designs from Honda, Volvo, Toyota, Panasonic, Adidas, Nike, Converse and Fossil. “We have four [DASH graduates] at BMW in Pasadena, California,” said industrial design teacher Kelly Kwiatkowsi, adding that “two working in Toyota are making big bucks with signing bonuses.”

Click on the heading above to go to the schools website (

High School Fashion Design Classes

Do you think that boys + high school + fashion design don't add up? Some students, including boys, are starting their fashion design careers in high school. Esteban Cortazar (left) studied at Miami's Design and Architecture Senior High (DASH) and other students from that award-winning school have had their start there as well. Cortazar is a rock-star of fashion design. He leads a glamorous life anyone would admire. He is able to live his life in glamorous places in the world through fashion design.

One of the youngest designers to be part of the runway design scene (right) in places like New York, Miami, Paris and Milan, Cortazar is still making his mark after entering the business in 2002 at the age of 18. The Colombian-born, Miami-raised son of an artist and a jazz singer began designing when he was 10 by taking old clothes apart and then stapling random pieces together. At 13, he started showing sketches to Todd Oldham, a mentor he found under his apartment at Miami’s News Café. While in New York for an Oldham show, Cortazar introduced himself to Bloomingdale’s Kal Ruttenstein, and soon afterward gave Ruttenstein a private showing of his glamorous gowns with a Spanish influence, in luxe fabrics and bright colors. It wasn’t long before the fashion prodigy was featured at Bloomingdale’s, and then Bryant Park.

Many students think they want to be fashion designers but find that acquiring the knowledge and skills takes more work than they thought. For those who are serious, however, they should be given the chance. You may be surprised how many serious future fashion designers are in your school.

Click on the heading above to learn more about Cortazar and let your students get to know about his work and life.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

The Beauty of Type

Some teachers coming from a fine art or craft perspective have a hard time warming up to typography. Type often seems too cold and unexpressive to them. They prefer hand-drawn lettering or calligraphy because it seems more "artsy" and creative. Hand-lettering, often without the benefit of guidelines, seems freer and more expressive to them. As a result, many "design" attempts by artists have a 1950's hodge-podge feel to them or at best a 1970's psychedelic look.

Type designers love the beauty of well-designed letters well-spaced and well-organized on the page. They appreciate subtle differences in the cut of a serif or the counter of an open letter. (above left) The negative spaces within and between letters are like the rests and intervals between notes in beautiful music to them (above center). The slight curve of an ascender or descender brings a feeling of elegance and purity to designers. They can find infinite variation and exquisite challenge in trying to get the letters and words to lie elegantly on the page in a clear and concise manner (above right).

One of the challenges for design education is to help people see the beauty of well-designed and well-arranged type. Students should learn to work with a few well-chosen type faces. They should know the names of each type face and a bit about who created them. Use well-respected type-faces and avoid selecting zany or unique type-faces just because they might seem more creative or individualistic. Avoid hand-drawn letters in any display unless they fill a rare specific need. Use the facility of computers to help create well-designed text.

Click on the heading above to see one of the many books available about designing with type.
Click on the "G" above to see a larger version showing subtle variations between different versions of Garamond. Print it out for students and have each 6 students ink in one of the versions so they can be compared.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Pull Learning and Push Teaching

The concepts of "Push" and "Pull" are helpful to understand new directions in education. The business terms push and pull originated in the marketing and advertising world but are also applicable in a wide variety of other contexts. The push/pull relationship is that between a product or piece of information and who is moving it. A customer (student) "pulls" things towards themselves, while a producer (teacher) "pushes" things toward customers (students).

In a "push" system the consumer does not request the product to be developed; it is "pushed at" the end-user by promotion. An example of this is a perfume product. Women do not request to smell a fragrance they never smelled before; it is simply "pushed" at them, through the right advertisement. This works best where everyone wants the content being pushed based on long term forecasts and requests received from students or parents.
The weaknesses of push teaching are an inability to meet changing demand patterns, large and variable production batches, unacceptable service levels, and excessive inventories due to the need for large safety stocks.

In a "pull" system the consumer requests the product and "pulls" it through the delivery channel. An example of this is the car manufacturing company Ford Australia. Ford Australia only produces cars when they have been ordered by the customers. This works best when applied to that portion of the supply chain where demand uncertainty is high and production and distribution are demand driven.
There is no inventory because the response is to specific orders. Point of sale (POS) data (feedback from students) comes in handy when shared with supply chain partners (teachers, parents, administrators).
With this system there is a decrease in lead time and it is difficult to implement.

Too often in education we are pushing learning that the customer (student) doesn't want. This works well when it turns out they really like it once they see what it is but is very wasteful when they really don't want it or don't see any relevance.

The ideal is when students pull the learning by working on projects in which they are truly interested, see the relevance or need for knowing, and have some control over the process and direction. We sometimes think of this as "self-motivated" learning. Learning that is based on pull principles of relevance, meaningfulness, self-motivation, student-centered, and teaching when the student is ready for it ("just-in-time" teaching), is optimal for both students and teachers.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

First Touch-Screen Personal Computer

Apple introduced the touch-screen technology to the general public with their iPhone but Hewlett-Packard captured the distinction of providing the first touch-screen personal computer for the mass market - the HP Touchsmart. Good luck finding one in stock - they are selling like hotcakes.

It is clear that this will be the dominant technological future (killer app) for personal computers. Click on the heading above to see some of the ads for the new machine obviously aimed at the younger generation of internet savvy screenagers with a hard driving beat saying "Do you wanna touch?"

The touch-screen computer operates by sliding your fingers right on the screen where you can write and send messages in your own handwriting by drawing with your finger right on the screen and move things around with a movement of your hand very much like Tom Cruise in "The Minority Report."

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

New Typeface for Highway Signs

Clearview is the name of the typeface that is poised to replace Highway Gothic, the standard that has been used on signs across the country for more than a half-century. Looking at a sign in Clearview after reading one in Highway Gothic is like putting on a new pair of reading glasses: the letters seem lighter and there is a noticeable crispness to them.

The Federal Highway Administration granted Clearview interim approval in 2004, meaning that individual states are free to begin using it in all their road signs. More than 20 states have already adopted the typeface, replacing existing signs one by one as old ones wear out. Some places have been quicker to make the switch — much of Route I-80 in western Pennsylvania is marked by signs in Clearview, as are the roads around Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport — but it will very likely take decades for the rest of the country to finish the roadside makeover. It is a slow, almost imperceptible process. But eventually the entire country could be looking at Clearview.

The typeface was developed by Don Meeker, an environmental graphic designer, and James Montalbano, a type designer. They set out to fix the problems with the old highway font, and their solution — more than a decade in development — may, according to the New York Times, end up changing more than just the view out a car window. Less than a generation ago, fonts were for the specialist, an esoteric pursuit, what Stanley Morison, the English typographer who helped create Times New Roman in the 1930s, called “a minor technicality of civilized life.” Now, as the idea of branding has claimed a central role in American life, so, too, has the importance and understanding of type. Fonts are image, and image is modern America.

The trick in highway signage is to design letters so carefully that they appear to be bigger and easier to read even though they are no wider than the original Highway Gothic so the words fit on the same size signs. One way to do this is to increase the "x heighth" (The "X heighth" of a lower case "h" is the same as an "n" because and "n" is an "h" without an "ascender".) Above left is a comparison of the old Highway Gothic (top); a version of the new Clearview that is 4.7% wider (middle); and another version that actually takes up less space than Highway Gothic while still being easier to read.(bottom). A good way to look for the difference is to observe the size of the openings (called "counters") inside letters like "O", upper case "R", and lower case "g", "a", "b", "c", "d", and "e". You can also see how the old Highway Gothic seems to bunch up in letters like "V" and "W".

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

2008 National Design Awards

The annual National Design Awards at the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum in New York City honor the year’s most outstanding contributions from the design world. The 2008 National Design Award finalists and Award recipients were announced on May 8, 2008, followed by a panel discussion on May 13, 2008 with this year's Awards jurors, a diverse group of leading figures in the design field.

There was a National Design Awards White House Reception on July 14, 2008. Mrs. Laura Bush, the 2008 National Design Awards Honorary Patron, welcomed the winners and finalists for a special reception at the White House.

Upcoming Design Awards events include:

People’s Design Award
The People’s Design Award gives the general public an opportunity to nominate and vote for a design of their choice by logging on to Voting begins September 22, 2008, and the winning design will be announced on October 23, 2008, at the National Design Awards gala in New York City.

OCTOBER 19–25, 2008
National Design Week
Launched in 2006, National Design Week is an education initiative offering free admission for all museum visitors and hosting a series of public programs surrounding the National Design Awards.

OCTOBER 20, 2008
Teen Design Fair
New York City area teens are invited to the museum to learn about design careers from professional designers and design colleges.

OCTOBER 21, 2008
2008 National Design Awards Winners' Panel
National Design Award winners participate in a panel discussion about the state of contemporary design in America.

OCTOBER 22, 2008
The Business of Design
Business leaders discuss how design impacts their overall strategy and affects their bottom line.

OCTOBER 23, 2008
National Design Awards Gala
Cooper-Hewitt celebrates the 2008 National Design Awards with its annual Awards ceremony and dinner held in the Museum’s Arthur Ross Terrace and Garden.

OCTOBER 24, 2008
Educator Open House
Educators are invited to celebrate National Design Week by learning about Cooper-Hewitt's many education programs. The museum’s staff will share information about online resources, tours, youth programs and professional development opportunities.

Click on the heading above to hear an announcement of winners and the panel that selected them.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Mathematics and Design

Dr. Steve Kokoska (right), a professor in the Department of Mathematics, Computer Science and Statistics at Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania, uses computer software like LaTeX and Mathematica to help visualize complex mathematical data. He presented the importance of strong visualization tools at the 2008 Summer Academy for the Advancement of College Teaching held at Bloomsburg University in July.

Graphic Designers have to be very careful in laying out publications that involve mathematical symbols and algorithms. Many fonts do not have appropriate characters for specific mathematical symbols. To a mathematician, using an inappropriate symbol is like miss-spelling a name. Beyond being an annoyance using the wrong symbol can impede understanding and may even convey incorrect information. LaTeX is a word processing program that provides exactly the right symbols for any mathematical publication requiring clear and accurate information.

Some mathematical algorithms are so complex that special software is used to represent the data visually so that it can be more easily understood. Mathematica is the name of a software package developed by Steven Wolfram that is the industry standard for creating visual charts, graphs, and images of mathematical data (above left). Dr. Kokoska showed how this powerful program is a tremendous help to mathematicians in helping others visualize their data.

Summer Institute Design Education

Nineteen teachers from eastern Pennsylvania are participating in a Design Education Institute organized by Dr. Martin Rayala from Kutztown University of Pennsylvania being held at the Goggleworks (left), an art center in Reading, PA. These mainly elementary, middle level and high school art teachers are learning about information design, product design, environment design and experience design. They are creating lessons about developing a design idea, visualizing possible solutions, creating a prototype, and presenting a design proposal.

In the photo (right) a group is generating ideas as part of a week-long design charrette. They are using visual communication techniques that employ text, images, and graphics to communicate ideas to each other to help in the design process. They will visualize several possible alternatives to each design challenge, then create prototypes, and finally present their ideas to all the Institute participants.

Lyn Godley, a product design teacher at Kutztown University, spent a morning with the teachers introducing them to the basics of product design. She also told them about a major lighting design project she is doing at the Goggleworks.

The group will be visiting the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum in New York City and the Center for Architecture in lower Manhattan. By the end of the week they will each have a set of lessons that establish a basic framework for a comprehensive design education curriculum and will be teaching a design unit in their classes in the fall.

Go to to see the design lessons the teachers developed.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Gadgets, Games, and Gizmos for Learning

Karl Kapp's book, Gadgets, Games, and Gizmos for Learning, (right) is an effort to close the gap between "Boomers" and "Gamers" in preparation for the transfer of information and ideas from one generation to the next. Kapp is a professor of Instructional Technology at Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania. He presented his ideas to a group of college professors attending the 2008 Summer Academy for the Advancement of College Teaching at Bloomsburg College in Pennsylvania in July, 2008.

The group of college professors was about evenly split between Generation X and Y with about 40% boomers and a smattering of Gamers. Kapp used individual response "gadgets" to collect data from the group throughout his presentation to see what people were thinking about the future of technology in education. As can be expected, the boomers were skeptical of the amount of technology and the time students spend using it. Many felt the use of games, Instant Messaging, social networking, etc. was largely a waste of time that could be better spent in traditional "studying". Some feared the openness of Facebook and MySpace and felt students using these social networking sites were treading on dangerous ground.

People are surprised when Kapp tells them that the error rate of entries in the online encyclopedia Wikipedia is no greater than that found in Encyclopedia Britannica. They also were surprised that email is a communication mode used mainly by older people and the younger people have already moved on to other communication modes such as IM.

Kapp, and his book, do a good job of describing the next generation variously called digital natives, neo-millennials, gamers, and screenagers and the future role of virtual games, electronic gadgets, and digital gizmos in education.

Click on the heading above for more about Kapp and his book.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Wisconsin's Visioneer Design Challenge

Wisconsin has a unique way to encourage teachers to include more design education in their art programs. They hold an annual festival and competition called the Visioneer Design Challenge where students try to solve challenges created by design professionals in a variety of design fields.
(Right - Some students with their award ribbons from the 2007 event)

The Visioneer Design Challenge is a statewide learning program and competition for high school and middle school students interested in design arts connecting with professional designers in each field. Ten Challenges were developed by professional designers. These challenges cover design in everyday things, design of spaces and places, design for communication and information and design for human interaction.

The concept was developed by Martin Rayala before he left the position of State Art Education Consultant and brought to reality by Virgi Driscoll with the help of Kathy Rulien-Bareis from the Wisconsin Art Education Association.

2008 Design Consultant Mentors and their design area:
Scott Foley, videographer
John Carua, industrial & product designer
Carrie Hoelzer, digital photography
Jerry Butler, artist/illustrator/author
Bethany Armstrong and John Hardy, graphic designers
Doug Marschelek, urban and regional planning
Gautum Wadhwa, animator
Larry Haugen, packaging industry
Doug Forton, architecture
Betty Hurd, fashion designer

As more cities and states initiate their versions of design challenges there will be enough students and teachers involved that we can have a national design challenge where students and teachers can get together with designers and others from around the country to celebrate their design achievements and learn from each other.

Click on the heading above to see a video about the Visioneer Design Challenge.
Go to the WAEA website to learn more about the Visioneer Design Challenge.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Floating Cities of the Future?

I don't recommend assignments like "Design a Fantasy City" as part of a design education curriculum. These projects often turn out to be more self-expressive exercises closer to fine art than design activities that meet real user needs, material and structural realities, and all the other factors that need to be taken into account in design.

There is a point, at the beginning of the design process, where designers let their imaginations run wild in order to open up possibilities for the most innovative and creative solutions. If the process stops there, however, it results in work that is more related to fine art (personal self-expression) than design (functional design to meet a need.)

Students need to learn that using your creativity to solve real problems can be incredibly fun and challenging. Design is as imaginative and creative - because of the inherent challenges of the practical and user requirements - as purely personal self-exploration and self-expression,

LILYPAD (above) is a real-life, design concept for floating cities of the future that satisfy anyone's need for wild imagination while fulfilling design requirements such as usability, sustainability, and structural practicality. Click on the heading above to see a full story on an excellent site called Archinect.

LILYPAD is a true amphibian - half aquatic and half terrestrial city - able to accommodate 50,000 inhabitants and inviting the biodiversity to develop its fauna and flora around a central lagoon of soft water collecting and purifying the rain waters. This artificial lagoon is entirely immersed, ballasting the city. It enables inhabitants to live in the heart of the sub aquatic depths. The multi functional program is based on three marinas and three mountains dedicated to work, shopping and entertainment. The whole set is covered by a stratum of planted housing in suspended gardens and crossed by a network of streets and alleyways with organic outline. The goal is to create a harmonious coexistence of humans and nature, exploring new modes of cross-cultural aquatic living.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Summer Institute for Teachers in Pasadena

The Summer Institute for Teachers at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena is a five-day, intensive program in design-based learning. Its goal is to tap students’ natural creativity to develop higher-level thinking and enhance comprehension of the K–12 curriculum.

July 30—August 1 and August 4—5, 2008, 8:30 am to 4:30 pm
For K–12 Teachers in All Subject Areas
Four Units Professional Staff Development Credit
Five-Day Hands-On Workshop Taught by Working Classroom Teachers
Award-Winning Program

Founded in 2002, the Summer Institute for Teachers received the 2006 Award of Merit in K–12 Architectural Education from the American Architectural Foundation. Also in 2006, Art Center’s Leslie Stoltz received a California School Board Association Golden Bell Award for excellence in education for her work in Design-Based Learning with the Chapparal Middle School in Diamond Bar, California.

Design-Based Learning was developed by Doreen Nelson (right), a professor at Art Center College of Design and California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, and recipient of the California State University 2006 Wang Family Excellence Award in education. Nelson directs the Summer Institute for Teachers.

Paula Goodman is the Director of K-12 Programs for Art Center College of Design.

826 Valencia

The 826 Valencia tutoring program Dave Eggers started in San Francisco is about writing skills but, as each storefront tutoring location opened across the country, the founders used the creativity of design thinking.

826 Valencia is an after school tutoring program in the back but has a store front that is a working Pirate Supply Store where you can purchase planks by the foot, scurvy remedies, peg legs, eye patches, replacement eyes and anything else a working buccaneer might need.

The New York (Brooklyn) version has a Superhero Supply Store (left) complete with capes and secret identity kits. The Chicago version is the Boring Store with all kinds of reasons you wouldn't want to go in (because it is secretly a Spy Supply Store and the spies can't have others see them inside). LA's version of 826 is a Time Travel Store where a sign on a vending machine says "Out of Order - Come Back Yesterday". The Seattle 826 has a Space Travel store where you can buy gravity by the pound. The Boston 826 has a Sasquatch Research Institute. The new Ann Arbor, Michigan 826 is a Robot Repair and Supply Store (right) for robots who might be seeking spare parts or an implant of emotions.

These are after school tutoring programs for writing. Imagine the fun if design students created their own imaginary theme stores in their schools.

Click on the heading above to see a video of Dave Eggers at the TED conference.

Social Networking Part of Schools of the Future

Philadelphia's Science Leadership Academy (SLA) is featured as one of six Best of Cool Schools using Project Based Learning by Edutopia magazine. Chris Lehmann (left) is the Principal of this innovative school and, with the teachers and students, is attempting to create a school reflecting "Dewey for the Digital Age."

One of the key features of SLA is the ubiquitous use of social networking tools (like Moodle) by teachers and students as ways to enhance learning. In traditional schools, students are punished for "passing notes in class" but at SLA students and teachers are expected to contribute to dialogues through social networking on their computers. They become more engaged in their learning because they question, comment, discuss, disagree, defend, reflect, and converse electronically during classes.

This is difficult for some traditional educators to accept because they feel students should "pay attention" and "show respect" for a teacher lecturing at the front of a room and not be using computers or other electronic devices during class. Teachers at SLA avoid those traditional teacher/student roles as much as possible in favor of project-based learning and a flattened hierarchy in which students have a voice in what they will learn and teachers have a voice in how the school will be run. This school views collaboration, networking, and dialogue as ways people learn rather than as distractions or disruptions.

The photo on the right shows students in an art class at the Science Leadership Academy.
Click on the heading above to see the article about SLA in Edutopia magazine.